Florida Medicaid agency sued over rule blocking transgender healthcare coverage


Four transgender Floridians have sued the state of Florida's Medicaid administering agency over a recently passed rule that bars the use of Medicaid funding in the state for gender-affirming care.

The  lawsuit, filed on Wednesday by a coalition of activist agencies and law firms on behalf of two adult and two minor transgender plaintiffs, alleges that the state's exemption around funding gender-affirming care is nakedly discriminatory and illegal under the laws governing the disbursement of Medicaid funds.

Florida's rule barring treatment of gender dysphoria under Medicaid is part of a raft of anti-trans legislation and sentiment in the state, fueled in part by the national Republican party and its ongoing stoking of LGBT resentment. In a press conference on Wednesday, two of the plaintiffs shared their stories and explained how the new rule would effect them.

28-year-old August Dekker of Hernando County said that he knew he was a man from a very early age. Dekker shared that he used to shower with the lights off to avoid confronting a body he didn't recognize as his own.

He socially transitioned into living as a man in 2015 and began receiving treatment for gender dysphoria under Medicaid in 2017.  He receives Medicaid because of long-term disability due to rheumatoid arthritis. Dekker had top surgery earlier this year and is on a regimen of testosterone prescribed by his doctors.

At Wednesday's press conference, he worried about the cost of treatment without Medicaid and the effects of going off his regimen.

"I don’t want to lose the person that I’ve become," he said. "These are medically necessary medications that should be covered by health insurance."

Jade Ladue worried for her young son, a minor pseudonymously identified in the suit as K.F. She said that she's only able to carry some of her children on her own employer-based insurance, while K.F. and his medical care are covered under Medicaid.

"K.F. has always been a boy. It’s never been a choice for him," she shared.

Ladue said the new rule has left her family "appalled and stressed" about the future. They worry about the detriment to their son if they can no longer afford his regimen of puberty-delaying medications.

The lawsuit asks a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to declare the rule unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause and illegal under the laws governing Medicaid. It also asks for damages to compensate the plaintiffs.

"The State of Florida has chosen to ignore the evidence, the science, and the consensus of medical professionals in a shameful effort to gain political points,” said Simone Chriss of the Gainesville-based civil rights law firm Southern Legal Counsel, one of the firms taking on this case. "This dangerous, scientifically flawed ban strips medically necessary, life-saving healthcare away from the transgender Floridians with the least access to resources. As long as the state of Florida continues to attack the basic human and civil rights of its transgender community, we will continue holding to the fire to the feet of those enacting the discriminatory measures.”